Non-Theists in Alcoholics Anonymous

“God” is mentioned a little over one hundred and thirty times in the AA Twelve-and-Twelve book, a book that lays out all the steps with in-depth commentary about the meaning of those steps.

There can be little doubt that the co-founders of AA, Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, were deeply steeped in the 1930s orthodox Christian notion of that God.

In all of the AA literature, God is always male. And “He” is portrayed as an intervener, a grace-giver, a miracle-worker, a creator, and a caring, non-judgmental patriarch. Hell and Heaven may be absent from the literature, but an activist, intervening divinity is vividly present as a kind of divine co-partner and activist healer of the recovering alcoholic and addict. Continue reading


Twelve-Step Program, Another View

In my city, there’s a cadre of AAers who treat the program as a ritualized boot camp and see the steps as a military-like list of prescribed mandates, rather than “guides to progress.” Within this model, sponsors tend to see themselves as drill sergeants commanding the uninitiated through the twelve steps.

The Twelve-Steps Sequence, a Natural Order or a Human Construct?

There are also many who believe the sequence of the steps reflects a kind of natural order of events for recovering alcoholics and addicts in the program. Each step is seen as an inevitable awakening-like process, even though the order of the steps reflects a strong theological bias, particularly in the second and third steps—the “came-to-believe-in-a-power-greater-than-myself” steps I call them.

Those specific steps are placed early in the program suggesting that nothing in the program can be accomplished without some kind of “higher power” guiding those in recovery through the process of the program. According to this more traditional view, some recoverers call this higher power “God,” with grace-giving abilities capable of transforming behavior and attitudes. Continue reading